20 Oct How to Program Barbells and Kettlebells Effectively

It’s been harder to keep up with reader questions, so I’d like to start answering more of your questions here at Rdella Training.

Recently, I had a few great questions from Rick, who’s a former powerlifter and starting to integrate more kettlebells into his training.

He wanted to know the best ways to effectively combine barbell and kettlebell training.

Here are Rick’s questions:

1.) Can you build power, size, and conditioning with just kettlebells?

Yes, absolutely.

Double kettlebell programs are the BEST for size and strength.

While I have a passion for barbell training to maximize strength and power, you can certainly build explosive strength, power, and muscle (and, of course, a high level of conditioning) with kettlebells.

It’s all about programming, doing the highest value exercises, rep schemes, and other variables that best match your goals.

2.) Is it better to mix kettlebell training in with barbell training or do them on different days?

This all depends what your goals are.

Most of the time, I use both tools on training days and there is always an emphasis on one tool over the other in a training session.

There are times when I’ll do barbell work one day, then the next session I’ll focus more on kettlebell work, but it all depends on what I’m training for at that time.

The kettlebells complement the barbell work and vice versa.

As I’ll say repeatedly, everything depends on training goals and then that goes back to implementing a successful, strategic, systematic training program.

3.) As far as kettlebells and barbells together, is it better to train different bodyparts each day or the whole body each day?

Unless I’m doing a “bodybuilding” style program, specifically for muscular hypertrophy, I’m always training the body as a whole.

There’s a popular saying now in the fitness community that goes like this – “think movements and not body parts.”

That’s how I like to approach it, I like to focus on the movement, although there is certainly a time to target certain muscle groups for the primary goal of hypertrophy (pure “isolation” is really unachievable, but we can certainly “target” specific muscles and muscle groups).

If the primary goal is hypertrophy, then YES, train like a a bodybuilder and “target” certain muscle groups, otherwise, train the body as a whole – squat, DL, press, etc.

Every kettlebell exercise is a full body movement, as is all the big barbell lifts.

4.)  If I do the big lifts first and then kettlebells after that, should I do one set barbell lift, than one set of kettlebell swings, then rest, and go again?  Or should I complete all sets of the basic lift then do the swings after?

What I do is one exercise at a time, most of the time, unless I’m doing more of a conditioning program or something along those lines where I’m doing kettlebell complexes or more met con work.

As I keep emphasizing, what we do will depend on what we are training for.

Here’s how it looks.

If I squat or deadlift, I complete all sets of that exercise, then move onto the next, say a kettlebell press or kettlebell swings, or whatever it is I’m doing.

This would be for the goal of strength with maybe some conditioning work at the end.

If the goal is strength and power, then do kettlebell conditioning work AFTER the big power lifts.

That’s how I would approach it, but it’s all about the goal and the program.

The GOAL dictates the program and training approach.

Are you seeing the message here?

5.) I have a couple programs I was considering. One was to do a basic barbell lift each day. One day bench, one days squat, one day deadlift, one day full body, and then do kettlebells each day with those lifts.

The other program was training kettlebells three days a week and the other three days to do my barbell lifts. Which program would you suggest?

If my primary goal was strength with a secondary goal of conditioning, I’d probably prefer the 1st option where you are training the big lifts each training session and then do the conditioning work.

I think the other approach of doing 3 days of barbell work and then 3 days of kettlebell work could be pushing things pretty hard and not allowing for recovery if this is done for an extended period of time.

The truth is, the way I prefer to train is to FOCUS on one big goal at a time, so if strength is the goal (and it sounds like it is), then do the big lifts first, then add in the kettlebells to support the barbell work and for the added benefit of conditioning.

Great questions and the bottom line with everything is knowing your training purpose and not trying to do too much at any given time.

Keep the goal the goal, as Dan John says.

Hope this was helpful.

The Kettlebell Domination Program is now available. To learn more about this proven, powerful 5 week program go to RdellaTraining.com/dominate.
Scott Iardella writes about strength training methods to optimize health and performance. If you enjoyed this article, join a strong and growing community of passionate fitness enthusiasts and subscribe below to get a ton of cool, free stuff! Go to RdellaTraining.com/join
  • Larry Townes
    Posted at 16:11h, 02 November Reply

    Hello Scott. I read your program on how to program barbells and kettlebells effectively. I have been doing 5 by 5 with dumbbells and would like to add kettlebells. I see that you say do one basic barbell lift each day and then do kettlebells each day. It looks like a 4 day plan . I do swings , overhead press, goblet squats, rows, one fourth turkish get up. Can I do this workout or do you have another. Thank you.

    • Scott
      Posted at 12:38h, 03 November Reply

      Hey Larry,
      Well, there are so many ways to effectively combine modalities. Typically, I’d recommend one tool (barbell, for example) as the primary tool and then the other as a secondary or supportive method (in this case, a kettlebell). As mentioned in the article, it all depends on the goal. Not sure exactly how you’re doing the 5×5, so it would be hard to comment on that. In general, I could say to “supplement” kettlebells after the 5×5 work, OR just do 1-2 days of general KB strength & conditioning. It all “depends.”

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